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Glenn Gould – Seeking the Ordinary in the Eccentric

Many are names of things we hold dear. An enigmatic musical poet, world- renowned pianist Glenn Gould continues to captivate years after his untimely death in 1982. In 2010 the documentary Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould was presented and became yet another attempt to describe the iconic musician. Read more >>

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Author Topic: Full recital - Edinburgh 2017  (Read 142 times)
ronde_des_sylphes
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« on: September 03, 2017, 05:11:17 PM »

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017. At first I wasn't very pleased with some of my playing, but it was better than I thought, so I've decided to post the full thing.

Wagner-Liszt        Fantasy on Rienzi
Wagner-Liszt        Isolde's Liebestod
Wright                Thalbergiana
Bellini-Thalberg     Casta diva
Rossini-Thalberg    Dal tuo stellato soglio

Wright                Concerto for piano solo

Very minor editing, apart from removing a memory lapse in the concerto... and a passing ambulance..  Roll Eyes

Rienzi : https://app.box.com/s/q3i3owt3vy03iabu471fcif0sajzpgll
Liebestod : https://app.box.com/s/h93murf7pnaso200qq3lttsqf1aydkcp
Thalbergiana : https://app.box.com/s/zdmnt19z7l8f9cjufnqu6kpctpb1e53j
Casta diva : https://app.box.com/s/em7yttuw197iiz7bxl4e0lfb3cgcq4is
Rossini/Thalberg : https://app.box.com/s/sf2yxltx3gdc1yaqvru1pqb0eb9gczk4

Concerto : https://app.box.com/s/5ra8eprex6s4o4pwsq8wmmwvu262bog6

A hot (by Scottish standards) evening, and I didn't make my life any easier by playing faster than I sometimes might (certain compromises were made in the heat of the moment in the extract from Moses!), but I think the concert was something of a success. I really look forward to getting the concerto properly orchestrated, maybe even an orchestral performance, but even in solo piano form I think it works well, and I was very involved in it here.

My programme notes re the concerto:

There is a long-established tradition of piano concerti also existing in two-piano form - the solo part and a second piano for the orchestra. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is far less common for concerti to also exist in solo piano form, not least due to the difficulties and compromises implicit in representing both the orchestral and piano part within the writing. Trying to represent so many different instruments with a mere ten fingers is an interesting challenge! I have written a brief summary and analysis of the concerto, which gives examples of the instrumentation and perhaps an insight into the compositional process and what the music "means" - if music does indeed mean something - the argument about musical art being representational or not is a complex, neverending one.

The concerto is, from a technical perspective, largely constructed out of two very similar descending motifs, both of which occur within the first minute and a half. They are in effect mood mirror images of one another and it could be argued analytically that the second one is a mutated derivation of the second; the first is contemplative and questioning, the second more bold and positive. All the material within the first two movements is directly derived from one or other of these motifs, as is the closing material. The concept of cyclical form (as opposed to sonata form) and continual transformation of thematic motifs was one of Liszt's great technical innovations, though one should not forget the importance of Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy in this regard.

The concerto opens with a trumpet call over a bass drum roll, prefacing the entry of the first descending motif, a questioning, wary theme. The mood gradually becomes more demonstrative and the second motif, a highly romanticised, quasi-Rachmaninovian theme, enters with a flourish. The theme is developed, firstly with the addition of softly trilling flutes, secondly with the melody given to the celli. Following an orchestral tutti and a piano cadenza, the "questioning" opening motif returns in the strings over a bass drum roll, leading to a harp cascade, depicting a rain-shower. The first motif returns in a harmonised form: the right hand presents it first in thirds, then in sixths, and thereafter with progressively denser harmonies as the mood becomes more impassioned. There is a thunderclap; rain beats down more insistently and we move to a highly melancholy, minor key transformation of the second theme. The mood intensifies and a tender interlude ensues before returning to the melancholy. Snow flurries across a dark, gloomy, windswept landscape; the music becomes progressively more animated until the climactic transition back into sunlight and a triumphant re-presentation of the second theme, followed by arriving at rest.

The second movement opens with an introductory, placid, more major-key echo of the opening motif from the first movement; likewise the main thematic material of the movement is a transformation of the second motif from the first movement. There is far less drama and tension in this movement: it represents a peaceful reverie interspersed with submerged passion. The tranquil external sections of the movement are for soft piano and strings; woodwind enter to carry the melodic lines in the middle section with its distant hints of animation and fervour. This movement marks an intermezzo; the calm before the storm.

The third movement - the most highly pictorial and allusive of the three - begins with a violent iteration of the Dies Irae, a Latin hymn believed to originate from the 13th century AD, and which forms part of the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass. Quoting it has long been a favourite device of composers: Berlioz, Liszt and, in particular, Rachmaninov are amongst those who have famously referenced it.

[illustrative image inserted; quotation "Dies irae, dies illa. Solvet saeclum in favilla."

(Loosely translated -"Day of wrath, the day when Earth dissolves in embers".)

The opening phrase of this motif then descends into the bass of the keyboard, full of ominous foreboding, ushering in a cascade of thunder and rain. As this subsides, a cortege of praying monks pass through the scene, softly intoning the Dies Irae. As they fade away in despair, a violent storm breaks (the writing here has similarities to Liszt in the Dante Sonata and Vallée d'Obermann). There is some musical symbolism at work here, as the Dies Irae is being intermixed with a mutation of the first movement thematic material during the initial octave passages. As the storm subsides, bells are heard tolling in the deep bass. The Dies Irae re-emerges amongst a deafening cluster of interlocking octaves, the gates of Hell open and a menagerie of bizarre wild beasts and disembodied souls spill forth onto the Earth. As disorder prevails, conventional tonality breaks down and is supplanted by harmonies formed around the tritone - the interval known as diabolus in musica in mediaeval music. The symbolism is obvious. Amidst the carnage emerges a perverse - but based around the conventional tonal system - reharmonisation of the first four notes of the Dies Irae. The keyboard is then submerged under a torrent of augmented harmonies, before the Dies Irae is defiantly hammered out in alternate chords in the bass. As all seems lost, a harp cascade and an ascending motif (derived by inverting the descending motif from the first movement) lead into a transformative passage ending with the Tristan chord and its resolution, signifying redemption, and transitioning to a triumphal return of the "romantic" theme from the first movement, as the work ends in a blaze of glory.

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Apologies for somewhat duplicating a previous post or two, but hopefully this is worth people's time to hear!

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